Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blackout, by John Rocco: our last summer treat (ages 5 - 10)

Labor Day Weekend is indeed the last remnants of summer, a time for families and neighbors to enjoy together before the wild rush of September overtakes us. One of my favorite picture books of the summer was Blackout, by John Rocco. I love it every time I read it. Summer. City. Family. Magic in the ordinary moments. It's a special treat, indeed.
by John Rocco
NY: Disney / Hyperion Books, 2011
ages 5 - 10
available from your local library and my favorite bookstore
Every time I see this book, I am completely drawn in by John Rocco's cover. The magnificent deep blue-black night sky, the shining stars, the people on a rooftop -- all make me want to stop whatever I'm doing and just spend a moment with this book. As you open the story, you'll see a typical family with everyone busy on their own, on their phone, at their computer, in their own little space. But all of a sudden, the power goes out. Not just for that family, but across the whole city.

As the family adjusts to the power being out, they come together, start to play a board game, and then move up to their building's rooftop. "It was a block party in the sky." On the sidewalk below, people gathered and visited, neighbor with neighbor, sharing melting ice cream and making impromptu music. "And no one was busy at all."

I love the way Rocco celebrates the magic in ordinary moments, in a family being together on a dark night. And yet, it took an extraordinary moment - a city-wide blackout - for this family to discover the joy of simply being together. As Rocco writes on his website,
"It is not often, in this digital age, that we get a chance to stop, to really stop, and just be. Be in the moment. Be with our families. Be with our neighbors. Be with our community. Sometimes, when the lights go out, it's a good thing. It can be magical. This is a book about a family who discovers that magic during one hot summer night in the city."
Rocco tells this story with wonderful illustrations, many broken into sequential panels almost like a graphic novel or comic book. I think children and families will really respond to this book, as it evokes the best of being together on a summer night.

I enjoyed watching John Rocco's book trailer for this book. He's combined interviews with New Yorkers who remember the city-wide blackout of August 2003, along with pictures that give you a sense of the book and story.

Read other reviews at:
Read a fantastic interview with John Rocco at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Blackout is one of my favorite books of the year. The links above take you to my favorite bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley, which now has an online store.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. My niece and I had a great time reading this book.

  2. Just picked this up at my favorite local indie bookstore. Like you, totally drawn in by cover. Thanks so much for trailer link and review!

  3. Thanks for the recommendation. This book is very relevant to the way we live today. It reminds me of the commercial where the dad pulls the switch on the electricity at his house so his family could enjoy an evening together.

  4. I really loved Blackout and your great review incorporating the book trailer (which is one of the best I've seen this year).

  5. It seems lovely! I wish I could get it for my nephews, but I think they're still singlemindedly obsessed with trucks. Maybe I'll just get it for myself. :)

  6. Thank you for this great book suggestion. Requesting it from library now...

  7. I reviewed this book as well, and I also shared it at a preschool story time. I love it more and more with each reading, and I agree completely about the cover drawing you right in, and about that feeling of being together on a summer night.

    Wonderful review! Mine is here if you'd like to see it. :-)